Monday, January 26, 2015

Memorizing Poetry

I was in a class recently where the professor spent a long time defending the part of her syllabus that required us to memorize (quite a few lines of) poetry. 

This was a totally unnecessary argument to make to me.  I think it is quite obvious that memorizing beautiful poetry is good for your soul, and that it would be a very good thing if more people were reviving this educational practice that has somewhat died out in recent years. 

I may also have been gifted at birth with a pretty decent ability to memorize poetry, and so don't mind doing it. 

She did say something neat in the process, though:  She said that the poetry you memorize is like the paintings hung on the walls inside your mind.  It's what's always there. 

So, here are a few things that hang on the walls of my mind.  Some are in progress.  Some are new to me.  Some are old. 

"Aspecta Medusa" by Dante Gabriel Rosetti
Andromeda, by Perseus sav'd and wed,
Hanker'd each day to see the Gorgon's head,
'Til o'er a fount he held it, bade her lean,
And mirror'd in the wave was safely seen
That death she lived by. 
                                         Let not thine eyes know
Any forbidden thing itself, although
It once should save as well as kill, but be
Its shadow upon life enough for thee. 
(The beginning of) Petrarch Sonnet 150
"Che fai, alma?  Che pensi?  Avrem mai pace?
Avrem mai tregua?  Od avrem guerra eterna?" 
The first stanza of Dante's Commedia
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
Mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
Che la diritta era smaritta. 
one of William Shakespeare's songs
O mistress mine, where are you going?
Stay and hear, your true love's coming
That can sing both high and low. 
Trip no further, pretty sweeting. 
Journeys end in lovers' meeting,
Every wise man's son doth know. 
What is love?  'Tis not hereafter. 
Present mirth hath present laughter. 
What's to come is still unsure. 
In delay there lies no plenty. 
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty. 
Youth's not such as shall endure. 
Sonnet 116, also by William Shakespeare
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments.  Love is not love
That alters when it alteration finds
Or bends with the remover to remove. 
Oh, no, it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken. 
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Who's worth's unknown, although his height be taken. 
Love's not time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come. 
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out, e'en to the edge of doom. 
If this be error and upon me proved,
Then I never writ, nor no man ever loved. 

And just writing down these has made me think of a bunch more that I wish I had!

What does the inside of your mind look like?  Bare walls?  Hang something.  Make it beautiful.  Make it true.  Pick things you want to keep forever. 

1 comment:

  1. You forgot Julia's Clothes!

    "Upon Julia's Clothes" by Robert Herrick

    Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
    Then, then (methinks) how sweetly flows
    That liquefaction of her clothes.

    Next, when I cast mine eyes, and see
    That brave vibration each way free,
    O how that glittering taketh me!